When you’re pregnant, everything you do becomes clouded over with doubt. You are always wondering if what you are doing is safe for the baby, including something as simple as lying on your back during pregnancy.
Ever since you discovered that you are carrying, you may have taken every precaution you came across. You may have made some lifestyle changes, and for the first time ever, looked closely at what you are eating. You may be avoiding all forms of physical strain, and even tried to read up and educate yourself on anything you can do in order to make sure your child is delivered unharmed. But what about lying on the back? Can lying on your back hurt the baby?
You may have come across several warnings against lying on your back during pregnancy, and are wondering why. So let us try and answer some of the most asked questions regarding just that.
Lying On Your Back During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?
Generally, it is safe to sleep on your back while pregnant, until about 20 weeks of pregnancy. Around this point, your uterus would have grown to bear considerable weight.
Therefore, if you are lying on your back at this point, the weight of your uterus may compress the vena cava, a major blood vessel, thus hindering blood flow to both you and your baby. This may also leave you feeling nauseated and dizzy, perhaps even breathless.
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It is because your uterus has grown considerably at this point, that you will want to be more cautious and avoid twisting and turning while pregnant, and try to adopt some of the ideal sleeping positions during pregnancy.
Can Lying On Your Back Hurt The Baby?
One of the most frequent questions many expecting women ask is if lying on the back will hurt the baby. Many of them know that the safest position for sleeping is lying on the left side. However, many women who follow this rule are found to panic when they wake up on their back.
During the first trimester, lying on your back will not have any effect on the growing fetus. In usual cases, there is no need to panic if you happen to wake up on your back even after the 20th week of gestation. Waking up on your back doesn’t mean you were sleeping on your back all night long. Also, sleeping on your back for a brief period won’t hurt the baby.
However, if you sleep all night long on your back, the blood vessels will be compressed for a prolonged time. This will reduce the blood flow in both mother and baby which can be dangerous. Still, before the situation turns dangerous, the body will give away some cues to alert you that a major venous compression is about to happen shortly.
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Therefore, if you start sweating profusely, or feel dizzy after lying on your back for some time, take it as your body’s cue. Other warning signs are experiencing shortness of breath and feeling nauseous. If you experience any of these signs, change your sleeping position immediately by turning on your left side.
Many researchers have conducted studies to find out the relation between sleeping posture and pregnancy outcome. According to one study sleeping on back towards the end of pregnancy (after 28 weeks of pregnancy) increases the chances of stillbirth. However, further studies have to be conducted in order to confirm this.
How Long Can You Lie On Your Back When Pregnant?
There is no one particular answer for this. As mentioned above, lying on your back during pregnancy is not all that harmful till after around 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is only after then, that you need to worry about being more cautious while sleeping.
However, until what stage an expecting mother can safely lie on her back during pregnancy also varies. The uterus of some women gets heavier before they hit the 20th-week benchmark. In that case, one may have to avoid this position after the second month of pregnancy.
While it is generally advised that certain sleeping positions should be avoided during pregnancy, you may unknowingly sleep in these positions from time to time. If you used to sleep on your back, you may wonder how long you can lay on your back when pregnant, before it becomes harmful.
Most experts agree that it is hard to quantify exactly how long it is considered safe to do so. However, to be on the safe side never sleep on your back continuously all night long (around 8 hours)
The experts suggest, when it comes to the safe duration for lying on your back, it is best to pay attention to signs from your body –if you are experiencing trouble breathing, feeling nauseous, or feel like your heart is beating faster, change your position immediately.
What Happens If You Accidentally Sleep On Your Back While Pregnant?
Even if you try your hardest to avoid lying on your back during pregnancy, you may still end up doing so unknowingly, as a force of habit. If that does happen to you, there is no need to panic. While lying on your back during pregnancy for a prolonged duration is risky, the discomfort caused by this is likely to get you to change your sleeping position.
If however, you wake up on your back in the middle of the night, as it does tend to happen quite a bit in the later stages of pregnancy, you are likely to experience nausea, fatigue, and breathlessness due to the irregular blood flow as mentioned above.
What Are The Potential Dangers Of Lying On Back During Pregnancy?
Here are some potential ill effects of lying on your back during pregnancy
1. Back ache
Pains and aches generally go hand-in-hand during pregnancy. As the pregnancy progress, sleeping on the back can put excessive pressure on the lower back and pelvis. This can trigger back pain. Already pregnancy takes a toll on the lower back. Lying on the back can aggravate the pain.
2. Low blood pressure
The inferior vena cava is the largest vein that carries blood from the lower extremities and abdominopelvic region to the heart. Lying on the back during pregnancy makes the uterus put immense pressure on this big vein. This will interrupt blood flow and thus can significantly decrease blood pressure.
3. Shortness of breath
Lying on your back during pregnancy can restrict the flow of breath triggering shortness of breath. This is because when you lie on your back the airway gets temporarily blocked or becomes narrow due to the pressure exerted in the chest.
Obstruction of the airways can contribute to a condition called sleep apnea characterized by brief pauses in breathing while sleeping. If not solved, sleep apnea can contribute to several pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. Sleeping on one side, preferably the left, helps to keep the airway unblocked.
4. Contributes to heartburn and acidity
Heartburn and acidity are common issues the majority of women experience at some point in pregnancy. Lying on your back increases the risk of heartburn and acidity.
Already pregnancy hormone progesterone loosens up the lower esophageal sphincter that acts as a valve. This increases the chances of acid in the stomach travel up to the esophagus. Lying on the back for extended periods contributes to the transport of acid into the esophagus.
5. May aggravate hemorrhoids
Pregnancy is a time most mothers experience constipation. Persisting constipation during pregnancy can contribute to hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are a common issue faced by pregnant women. Even though it can appear at any point during pregnancy, it is more often found to appear in the third trimester.
Lying on your back for a long time can put extreme amounts of pressure on the pelvic floor. This can aggravate hemorrhoids and contributes to excessive pain.
What Is The Best Position To Lie Down During Pregnancy?
The best position to lie down when you’re expecting is lying on the sides. Even though both sides are acceptable, lying on the left side is considered an ideal position.
When you lie on your left side your uterus completely shifts its weight from the inferior vena cava. This position thus allows maximum blood flow to the placenta. Thus the growing fetus gets uninterrupted oxygen and nutrients.
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Likewise, lying on your left side takes the pressure off from the liver and kidneys. So, these organs can function properly and dispose of the waste easily. Thus, lying on the left side can help to reduce the risk of edema (swelling in hands, ankles, and feet).
If lying on the stomach is your favorite position, you don’t have to purposefully change it during pregnancy. You can continue your tummy-down position until your tummy enlarges enough to makes it impractical or uncomfortable. After that point, you have to switch to side positions.
Can Lying On Your Stomach Cause Miscarriage?
No evidence suggests sleeping on your stomach causes any sort of harm, during the first few weeks of pregnancy. In fact, it is considered perfectly fine until the growth of the uterus makes it difficult and uncomfortable. When this happens, you are likely to face a number of issues when sleeping on your stomach, like neck pain, lower back pain, and so on.
How Can You Make Lying Down Comfortable During Pregnancy?
Even though lying on the side is the safest position, if an expecting woman is not comfortable with that position, some tips will allow lying down on the sides comfortably. For this,
1. Use lots of pillows
You can put one pillow between the legs while lying on your side. You can also cross your legs and then sandwich the pillow. You can also place another pillow behind your back. This not only provides some extra support to your back and reduces back pain but also prevents you from rolling over during sleeping.
You can use two or three pillows in different combination that helps you lying on sides comfortably.
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2. Get pregnancy pillow
Get a pregnancy pillow as early as the first trimester itself. A pregnancy pillow helps you to discover various relaxed positions to lie down other than lying on the back.
Even though a pregnancy pillow is not a must-buy item during the first trimester, it is always better to try to start lying on your sides as early as possible. Therefore, by the time lying on the side becomes mandatory; you will be used to it. Also, it is found that early use of a pregnancy pillow considerably reduces common pains like hip pain, back pain, and leg pain throughout pregnancy.
Pregnancy pillows come in different shapes and sizes. U-shaped, C-shaped, wedge-shaped, bean-shaped, and even full-body pregnancy pillows are available in the market. Choose the one that works for you.
There is no denying that lying down during pregnancy is not favorable. Most mothers know that lying on your side is the best position. Even then some mothers find it hard to change the position soon after getting pregnant, especially those who used to lie always on their back.
No need to worry. You have entire first trimester to get used to it. Also, now you know ways to make you comfortable while lying in side. If you accidentally lie on your back for a short amount of time, there is no need to panic. The ill effects will only occur if your lie down that way for a long amount of time.